When I first decided to try my hand at growing garlic, the only place I could find to grow was a friend's property in the Hudson Valley. You see, I live in Brooklyn, do not own land, and the name Hudson Clove made obvious that my field was up north, in the valley. After that first season I applied for farm land with the Peconic Land Trust and that is where Hudson Clove is now, in the town of Amagansett on Long Island's southern prong. So Hudson (Clove refers to the garlic) has evolved to take on a broader meaning than the current taste for localism generally allows. It has come to suggest the Hudson River traversing a region north of Albany to the mid-Atlantic and an feeling for exploration, as had the river's namesake, Henry. I am an explorer and I hope that you are too.
Farming As Idea
Much like Thoreau and his field of beans near Walden Pond, I am seduced by the idea of a farm and it's history in American life, thought, and aesthetics. And hasn't the image of the farm been rejuvenated over the last decade along with the local, organic, small farm movement? Yes, there is beauty and occasional startling revelations on the farm, but mostly farming of this sort is an expense of labor on knees and feet. It is hard work. I do enjoy the opportunity to solve problems, and I must because I have no farm equipment. I make what I can, barter when possible, and use hand tools for the rest. I am not a typical farmer. You may even say that I am not a farmer at all, yet I don't think that matters. I began as an artist and I'm likely to finish that way.
Hudson Clove's primary crop is garlic and the reasons are simple. The garlic season is counter to the regular growing season, it grows rather easily, and stores well. In the marketplace, there is a dearth of variety. Even the farmers at NYC Greenmarket do not provide much beyond the basic Porcelain variety strain "German Hardy."
I would be remiss If I didn't explain that garlic is a beautiful crop, each head extracted from the soil is a sculpture. It has one of the most fascinating growth cycles, defies understanding at times, and reproduces asexually from several different means. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants; today's garlic essentially a clone of garlic grown hundreds, possibly thousands of years ago. Have you ever seen the garlic scape, or flower stalk, furl and unfurl en masse? You should. Much like apples or carrots or any number of other vegetables, there is a difference in flavor and appearance among garlic varieties and strains. Among these are early and late, long and short storing varieties and strains.
To keep things interesting, I am also growing several rows of French Grey or Griselle shallots and Saffron Crocus.
Can't I Plant
Over the coming years I will concentrate on offering culinary garlic, or table garlic, rather than offer garlic for gardeners. My experience buying seed from various sources has created layers of distrust. I cannot be fully confident in what you will receive until I've grown it for several seasons so that I know that the original source did not provide me with diseased cloves.
Garlic growers plant sets, which is another way of saying they plant cloves from bulbs that were dug out of the field three months prior. Although seed planting is the best way to ensure you do not transplant harmful pests along with your cloves, garlic does not reliably produce seed. Planting sets will always run the risk of transferring an invisible pest or pathogen from one field to another, but it is the only way. We try to isolate, cull, and destroy any plant that shows signs of disease and honest growers will never knowingly sell infected sets to a farmer or gardener. The short answer is sure, you can still grow my table garlic, but you do so at some risk and that risk is entirely yours.